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Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete

a travel blog by Joey Carlotta

I was off for another trip, this time the itinerary was 2 nights in Cebu City, followed by 5 in Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental for some down-time to be spent with my mother-in-law and 3 nights in Bacolod City for a total of 10 days. It was my first out of town trip since Mom passed away and I was looking forward to the vacation in Hinoba-an. Mixing business with pleasure, I took my wife Miren who was eager for the opportunity to spend some time with her Mom.

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Queen City of the South

Cebu City, Philippines

We took the 9:30 AM PAL flight to Cebu on Wednesday, May 21, which left on time and we got out of the airport in Mactan at about 11 AM. Besides taking care of business there, we had the chance to meet up with Tito Harry and Tita Carmen Campbell, old family friends. We had dinner with them on our first night at the Beehive, a nice little restaurant owned by a relation of Tita Carmen. Beehive was established in the 1940’s and is owned by Mrs. Hazel Gonzales and is run with her son Bruno. We caught up again with Tito Harry and Tita Carmen the following day at the Ayala Mall where they have a stall aptly called Carmen’s Linens. They sell beautiful handcrafted linens of all sorts as well as fantastic fresh water pearl jewelry designed by Tita Carmen herself. She is one skilled lady with a lot of good taste. On our last evening we dined at the world-renowned Arano. You can read more about this experience in FOOD TRIP.

We did not get a chance to move around too much as I had to get to as many meetings that were set up for me in the short time the we were there. I have been to Cebu a few times in the past but all those trips were likewise for business. We really have to go back to spend some time exploring the place. In any case, you can see why the Cebuanos are very proud of their little island even in a short visit. For starters, there is much history. Also, it has the right mix of province and city life. And finally, it is so centrally located that you can take a boatride to just about anywhere else in the Visayas and Mindanao including our ultimate destination, the island of Negros.

There are several ways to get to Bacolod from Cebu and the most civilized manner is to fly. But civilized we always ain’t. Itching for a bit of adventure, we opted to take the ferry to Dumaguete. There are two ferries leaving daily from Cebu to Dumaguete and both leave between 6 and 7 AM. The ride was smooth as the seas were calm. Including a stopover at Tagbilaran, Bohol, the boat ride took under 5 hours. From Dumaguete, there are buses that go to Bacolod over the mountains via Mabinay in Kabankalan. This cuts across the island of Negros heading first north on the eastern side of Oriental to Bais. The trip to Kabankalan from Dumaguete via Mabinay would take about 3 hours. Since our first stop was Hinoba-an, we would have to take another 3 hour bus ride south from Kabankalan for a total of 6 hours. There are also buses going the western route crossing over from Oriental at Bayawan directly into Hinoba-an in the Occidental side taking only 5 hours. The latter seemed like the best way to go and go we did for the ride of our life.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on May 21, 2008 from Cebu City, Philippines
from the travel blog: Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete
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Dumaguete, Philippines

The Ceres bus network is like the lifeline in the island of Negros. It provides more than a primary means of transport, connecting all the towns and cities and the lives of the people who live in those places. Buses come and go following strict schedules and it is a cause of major concern for all when one is late in arriving. Arriving in Dumaguete close to lunch, we were sorely tempted to stop in one of the many restaurants along their famous boulevard. But not knowing the bus schedules and loaded down with four full suitcases courtesy of my dear wife, we decided to head straight to the Ceres terminal, get our tickets, secure our baggage and head back into town for some food and bit of relaxation before hitting the road again. But this was not to be. Once in the terminal we were informed that the last bus going to Hinoba-an was leaving at noon. We only had enough time to buy some snacks and drinks and load our bags before the bus started to roll that we didn’t even get a chance to give the bus a once over. Ceres has all sorts of buses - big, small, air-conditioned and not. They appear to be adding new buses to their fleet all the time and I have often wondered what they did with their older buses. We were soon about to find out.

The road network throughout the island of Negros is pretty extensive and well maintained except probably in the hinterlands and 25 kilometer stretch in the Oriental-Occidental border that we were about to traverse. This last of the last frontiers took one hour to negotiate alone. The good news was that they were starting on it already and in good time. The bad news was that all the trucks and construction equipment were making it worse in some places and they tarried making any more repairs since they were going to get to it soon but not soon enough for those who traveled the road frequently and the poor sap who did it once and would swear never to pass there ever again. With such detestably and horridly bad roads, Ceres fielded only their oldest and worst rickety units on this route and for good reason. It would have been more comfortable to walk barefoot!

Before all this moaning and groaning started, we were oblivious of our fate and still excited about the ride ahead. It started pleasantly enough as the countryside in this neck of the woods still very rural and still unmarred by developments. Inescapably, new houses and some mansion-like structures of the nouveau middle class and elite dot the roadside as they do in the rest of the country. Past Bacong, the first town after Dumaguete, there is Dauin, site to numerous dive resorts and jump off point to Apo Island. Further are Zamboanguita and Siaton, the southern most tip of the province of Oriental and of the entire island of Negros. From here the countryside starts to get wilder with Bayawan as the last outpost. Basay is the next and last town of Negros Oriental and here starts the agony until the town proper of Hinoba-an on the Occidental side.

By the way, I have heard some locals and in particular some acquaintances from Bais refer to Dumaguete as Doomsville. I can't recall the reason for this but the name stuck. I really do not know the place that well to make a judgement but the people I have met from there I have liked including an old buddy Marichelle Teves-Magalona who is based there. I hope to get a chance to know the place better some day.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on May 23, 2008 from Dumaguete, Philippines
from the travel blog: Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete
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The Last Frontier

Hinoba-an, Philippines

Why this road has been left unpaved for so long is a mystery to all. Mind you, most of it is on the Hinoba-an side of the border. The seascape and mountain sceneries are fantastic but the ride was so horrendous that I was able to take only one reasonable picture while holding on for dear life. We were able to manage front row seats beside the driver and the experience was like riding a mechanical bull, going through ruts and potholes that would have swallowed whole a normal car. The fact that we were on a giant rattle trap did not help. Current efforts at concreting the road became more evident as we got closer to the town proper but these were only half the lanes and still too fresh therefore still unusable. Complete disregard has been given to the remaining unpaved road which made it all the worse. It was with more than a sigh of relief that we entered the bus terminal at last and not a minute later.

A short tricycle ride brought us to the home of my mother-in-law and we must have looked a sight as she could not suppress her laughter upon seeing us but was very apologetic for being the cause of our travails. We had endless glasses of cold water to clear the dust from our throats but it took several showers before I felt properly cleansed and fit. It took two days for me to recover any sense of feel in my rear and for the pain from the bumps and bruises to go away. We did not venture far from the house for the rest of our stay except to go for a swim in Happy Valley and to visit with some family of the wife. Being one of our regular vacation spots, I have written several other entries about Hinoba-an so I will skip further narative on the place.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on May 25, 2008 from Hinoba-an, Philippines
from the travel blog: Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete
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The City of Smiles

Bacolod, Philippines

We were off to Bacolod after 5 glorious days of doing nothing and getting properly rested. The recent availability of wireless Internet access in the area made it just perfect giving me email and contact with the office. The trip to Bacolod took 5 hours on another Ceres bus. I never tire of the sights in Sipalay. The bus also entered the old mining town of Maricalum to pick up passengers there. Travelling this route, one must remember of sit on the left side of the bus in the morning and the right side of the bus in the afternoon to avoid the sun. Countryside soon gave way to commercial buildings and ox carts to tricycles the closer we got to Bacolod City.

It was pleasant being back in Bacolod after some time. To enjoy Bacolod one must learn to let go of the need to always be on the move and to do something common among city folks. This is the only way to go with the flow and the flow is slow, very slow. And to appreciate Bacolod one must like to eat. There is really little else to. The highlights of each day are the meals that one takes and it not uncommon to be discussing where the next meal will be had even before the current is finished. Definitely a place after my own heart. On this trip we had the chance to catch up with some old friends Toto and Leilah and we had dinner in a new place called Louise. I made an entry in FOOD TRIP about Louise as well as the L'Fisher lobby restaurant, Ripples.

I might also add that Bacolod is my favorite place to shop. They have all the regular shops in the malls but there are still the boutiques of old that I always check out. I got all my overrun Nautica shirts in a shop called Mix and on this trip got a pair of the lastest style of Sperry Topsiders which I have not seen in Manila in another called Pelts, both in the Robinsons Mall or Rob as the locals call it. With all the old houses and affluence of the past, Bacolod is also a good place to get antiques. For sure, these people have taste and style in a class of their own.

The trip soon came to end and it did not feel like we were gone for 10 days. It did not feel like we had done much but that was the whole point of the trip. Still, we had fun including the trip from Dumaguete to Hinoba-an. Getting back to Manila on a Saturday gave me a chance to regain my bearings before getting back to work. The trip was also intended as a break after the worries and emotional upheavals related to the illness and death of my mother so she was never far from my mind. Since my wife is primarily responsible for the care and welfare of the kids, I found myself with nothing and no one to worry about for a change. This left a big empty feeling within. A consoling thought is that she has gone ahead to a different kind of trip and adventure which we will all follow at some point in time. It was time to let go.

Happy trails!

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on May 28, 2008 from Bacolod, Philippines
from the travel blog: Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete
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